Today Drummers I Like have the honor of speaking with Aric Improta. Aric currently holds the down the drumming duties with Night Verses.
We first saw Aric performing in his 2012 Guitar Center drum-off video, and what a performance it is. If you haven’t checked it out do yourself a favor and prepare to be amazed. Aric’s energy and emotion behind the kit is unreal. He’s not just flailing around playing four on the floor. He’s playing some challenging rhythms and makes it look easy. All while thoroughly enjoying himself! When he is writing with Night Verses he shows off his unbelievable chops yet all the parts fit beautifully with the music. He’s a true originator and we had a chance to ask him some questions. Aric is very open and easy to talk with. We had a chance to hit topics such as musicality, gear setup, and playing and recording with Night Verses.
So here is our interview Aric Improta.
D.I.L.: What made you get into drumming? We know you came from a musical family, but how did you decide on the drums?
Aric Improta.: Initially, I was given a Mickey Mouse themed 3 piece drum set for my 2nd birthday. At the time my attention span only permitted me to play in 30-second spurts, then I’d run off and climb a tree or wrestle my dad, but I think from that point on, I always just assumed that drums were the instrument I was supposed to play. As I got older, my parents bought me a bigger kit, I can’t remember the brand, but it had this amazingly cheesy reflective rainbow plaid finish. I remember I’d lose my sticks all the time, so out of necessity, I’d substitute them with these plastic castle towers I had from some lego kit. I think I just had so much energy growing up that the idea of me being able to pummel something with a stick came naturally and made sense to everyone around me. As time went on, I’d grown out of that kit and needed a “real” drum set, but my parents weren’t willing to invest in one unless I took a year of Elementary School marching band to show my dedication. I did that for three years but really never enjoyed how controlled an environment it was. I had to watch my dynamics, work in repetition, and I wasn’t getting to play or sound the way I thought drummers were supposed to (like what I had heard on the radio and seen on TV). So the minute I got out of elementary, I dropped marching band and started jamming with some new friends who wanted to cover punk songs. We met up, played the same two songs over and over as loud as we could for like four hours, and I remember thinking “I never want to do anything else.” Jamming with a group was the real catalyst for me to become a musician, drums just happened to be the medium I could speak most clearly with and from there, everything escalated.
D.I.L.: When you started really getting into studying drums who did you work with and what were your main focus points?
Aric: I started taking beginning set lessons in Jr. High from a drummer named Jørgen Ingmar. I worked with him once a week for 5 years and he was amazing at introducing me to the essential basics and helping me truly understand their importance. Everything from playing to a click and reading sheet music, to appreciating and studying rhythmic approaches from around the world. And as he would show me these beats, I’d always try and incorporate them into the music I was writing with my friends. I’m sure it got annoying at times. They’d write a drop C Nü Metal riff and I’d try to fit the Naningo under it, haha. But eventually, I started to find a balance and my focus quickly shifted towards creativity being a priority over everything else. Everything became concept driven and I would learn the skills I needed to test the concept (to see if I could make it actually sound good or not). I loved the syncopation, pulse, and meter changes I was hearing in prog, jazz, and latin, but I hated that they almost always had this dynamic threshold. I grew up on punk, rock, and metal and I’ve always loved the intensity of their attack. I didn’t need to have a musical background to feel it, it was primal, emotive, and instantly relatable. It was something these other genres often lacked. So my dream was/is to be able to find a satisfying balance between them all, as well as incorporate new concepts I have yet to see (whether they be the attack, composition, or performance based).
D.I.L.: Your technique between your hands and feet are top notch! Did you study something specifically or have exercises that helped develop that?
Aric: Thank you! Haha, I’ve always assumed I use what is considered to be “traditionally” horrible technique because I rely on my full arms and legs for much of my playing. I isolate to wrists/ankles when needed, but I always feel unnatural/contrived when I have to tell myself to calm down mid-performance. If I feel a part sounding quiet, I’m not going to be swinging sticks over my head, but when it calls for any sort of power, the last thing I’m doing is worrying about my technical approach. I think almost all people can agree that a performance is much more entertaining to watch when the performer doesn’t appear to be thinking too hard. And if you’re getting the sound you want out of the drum, without serious injury, then why mess with your approach? As far as exercises, I used to do singles, doubles, and paradiddles to a click while watching TV for about 2 years straight. I also made myself learn singles, doubles, and paradiddles on the kick to try and even out my coordination. Other than that, most of my technique has been developed during years of band practice. Almost all of my main projects have been heavy, and to make sure certain details are heard amongst all the distortion, you need to hit hard. You need to be able to sustain that volume even when you play fast, whether it be a quick double on the snare or a 16 bar tom roll. When you watch an authentic punk drummer, like my buddy Mike Cambra of Death By Stereo, you see that they all have this killer hand speed and super quick single pedal doubles. Not always the most dynamic, but super consistent and really powerful. That type of playing doesn’t come from studying proper wrist posture or YouTube videos on specific finger workouts. It comes from necessity. The necessity to keep up with the musicians you’ve surrounded yourself with, and years of pushing, to make sure you don’t lock up live. For as amazingly knowledgeable and technical as a lot of young drummers are right now (especially those of the YouTube cover generation), most of them lack the emotive attack that genres like hardcore, punk, and metal were founded upon. I’d like to think most of my technique came from all those ignorant years of playing as fast as I could in a room with friends until our muscles would lock up, but we couldn’t stop because the song wasn’t over yet haha!
D.I.L.: We know you’re a Meinl artist. Can you talk about your setup and why you choose that setup?
Aric: I currently play/endorse Meinl, Tama, and Vic Firth. For cymbals (from left to right), I usually use a 14″ Byzance Medium Hi-hat, 10″ Byzance Splash, 22″ Sound Caster Fusion Powerful Ride, and a 19″ or 20″ Mb10 Medium crash. I usually play with one crash live because growing up, I’d always break cymbals and couldn’t afford new ones fast enough. So I had to ration my set up. Eventually, I just got used to playing with one. Most of the time I still record with a couple, but I love how jarring it can be to use an open hi-hat as a crash substitute with my MB10 when I need that double crash sound. I’m also messing with a stack right now because I loved Jon Theodore’s stack incorporation on those early Volta records and that One Day As A Lion EP. But as far as effects cymbals, I stay loyal to my splash haha. I feel like effects cymbals move in trends. In the late 90’s all the skate punk and nü metal drummers had splashes, then early/mid-2000’s hardcore blew up and chinas became necessary for every breakdown ever played, and now with the combination of gospel and djent influence taking over I feel like everyone has a stack in their set up. As far as drums, I play a Tama Maple Superstar Classic (22″ Kick, 14″ Snare, 12″ Rack, “14 and 16″ Floor). It came with 8″ and 10” toms, but I’m still not sure if I’ll be using those live. For sticks X55Bs, they are the literally the perfect middle ground.
D.I.L.: As we mentioned earlier your parts compliment the melodies of Night Verses so well. What is the writing process like?
Aric: Thanks again man. Since Night Verses write the music before vocals. (because of our geographical situation with us living in CA and our singer in NY) Our songs usually start with a single concept, beat, or riff. We’ll talk about what we picture when we pitch the idea. For example, I’ll have a specific beat written and show it to Nick and Reilly, then tell them the vibe I’m picturing, whether it be industrial, drum and bass driven, or sometimes we’ll talk about moods or films we want to make the song sound like. Then we jam on it and see what comes out. I’d say about half the time it ends up the way we pictured it. The other half, Nick or Reilly will come up with something over the beat that sounds better than what I had imagined and the song heads in that direction. It’s a complete team effort for all of us in Night Verses. I’m lucky to have band members that trust me enough to usually let me initiate the ideas, but once started, it becomes a combined effort. Even when we have re-written the song 4 times instrumentally, and finally feel like it’s ready to show our singer. If he comes up with a part that requires the music to be edited, it’s always subject to change. Night Verses also brainstorms after practice and talk about types of songs we want to attempt and I’ll keep everyone’s ideas in mind when trying to initiate the next song. The writing process is my absolute favorite part of being in a band, because it’s so unpredictable, and we’ve been playing together long enough now to remove the ego that usually disrupts that process. If someone thinks a part can be improved, then everyone is always down to re-write, and I feel like we almost always come to a genuine agreement more than a compromise. I don’t think we’d be willing to write together 5 days a week if it wasn’t such an enjoyable process.
D.I.L.: What can we expect in the future from you?
Aric: Touring wise, everything is on hold because the next Night Verses record is the main focus right now. We have about 40 songs to choose from so it’s all been writing, rehearsing, and editing for the last 5 months as we get ready for the studio. Though I’m not able to announce certain details at the moment, I’m excited to say that we are fortunate enough to be working with one of my favorite producers of all time and once it’s finished, we will be on the road as much as possible. As far as other content, I’ve been working on a lot of projects I’m hoping will all surface by the end of the year. A short documentary, some drum collaborations, and I also wrote an album with Jesse Classen of HRVRD (that probably won’t be released for a while because we are both busy with our main projects). But at the moment it’s all in the editing stages, most of my end of the work is done on those. Almost all of my time right now is going towards this next Night Verses record and I’m doing my best to keep from getting distracted, because for as much work as we’ve put in, there is still a lot to be done in order to meet our personal expectations for this release. As far as artwork goes, I’m working on some merch designs and I’ll probably do another bass drum head, but that is usually something I do in my downtime either on the road or after 10 pm at home (when I’m no longer allowed to drum). But yeah, it should be an exciting year! I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.